Burning Food in Cars – an ‘anti-human ethos’

Letter to the Editor

Watts Up With That?

23rd July 2012

Nothing illustrates the anti-human ethos of the Greens better than their support for “biofuels”.

That trendy name cannot hide the fact that encouraging and mandating the burning of food for motor fuel creates nothing but negatives for the environment and for human welfare, but will have no effect on climate.

The biofuel scheme relies on taxpayer subsidies and legislated market-sharing. It wastes land, fuel, fertiliser, water and financial resources to produce ethanol from sterile monocultures of corn, soya beans, palm oil and sugar cane. Most of the land used was cultivation that once produced food. Some is stolen from peasant landowners or obtained by ploughing natural grasslands or clearing virgin forests. The distilling process produces good alcohol but an inferior motor spirit that can damage some engines and has only 70% of the energy of petrol and diesel.

The biofuel schemes have already inflated world food prices. Shortages and famines will increase. This food-burning policy is taking us back to the hungry years before tractors, harvesters, trucks and diesel fuel when teams of draft horses, working bullocks, stock horses and farm labourers consumed 80% of farm output. Some may like to return to those bucolic days, but then most city populations would not find food on their supermarket shelves. In trendy green jargon, big cities would be “unsustainable”.

Here is a new slogan which is kind to humans AND the environment:

“Don’t Burn Food for Fuel”.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood Qld Australia

forbes@carbon-sense.com

I am happy for my email address to be published.

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Doug Huffman

Well said.
As I have been saying, “Burning food for fuel is foolish.”

Joe Guerk

The post sounds like a gross exaggeration: The US has food coming out of its ears; it can afford to set aside a percentage of the farmland for ethanol.
No, I don’t care about starving Biafrans or whatever the latest tear-jerking famine story is.

Peter Hartley

I have said on many occasions: “Burning your enemy’s crops used to be a weapon of war — now western governments are forcing taxpayers to subsidize crop burning by their own populace.”

Urederra

Nothing illustrates the anti-human ethos of the Greens better than their support for “biofuels”.

Not true.
Their support for DDT ban have sentenced half a million people to death every year.
But biofuels come close, though.

Ian W

The slogan should be a little stronger than that – follow FOIA – and say:
A child dies every 5 seconds from hunger – and YOU are using food for fuel!”

Ed Fix

Very well said! For us in the industrialized world, who pay around 5-10% of our budget on food, doubling food prices is an inconvenience, but not crippling. For the poorest in the world, who might spend 50% of their income on food, it’s a really BFD.
And it’s starting already. The so-called Arab Spring was sparked in part by rising food prices.

the irony of the internet: a popup ad on my screen below your article is of an Astoria, IL cattle farmer who supplies McDonald’s with quality beef, working land formerly part of a coal mine, which was considered by some to be “worthless.”
Excellent and concise point, Viv. It is all too clear that the “bio” in bio-fuels is anything but sustainable (economically or environmentally); nevertheless, it continues to receive government subsidies. A similar point could be made about blanketing arable soil with solar collectors. Not a wise decision.
Kurt in Switzerland

betapug

“Up to 10% ethanol” is such a wonderfully ambiguous phrase. Imagine pouring “may contain some milk fat” fluid onto your breakfast cereal.
After a protracted email exchange with Shell Canada, they admitted there is no way I can know what exactly I am buying at the pump as the ethanol dilution of gasoline is a federally mandated amount of their total national sales volume.
What you actually pump at any given time and location is “mystery mix” with an unknown energy (and thus mileage value) content of lower value ethanol.
Makes you wonder why they bother with the weights and measures inspectors calibrating the pumps for accurate volume delivery over a range of temperatures.

betapug

PS. I am informed by Shell that Shell V-Power gasoline in Canada is 100% gasoline, but not in the US.
I wonder if ethanol producers sell “could be mostly ethanol” to their customers?

Ian H

The US farmer lobby paid for this legislation to go through and it wants its money’s worth. To get it repealed you need to find somebody with deep enough pockets to outbid them, which would be difficult. That is what you get when your government is for sale. You guys might want to look at fixing your democracy sometime. In case you haven’t noticed, it is broken. At the moment you’ve got the best government … money can buy.

Most of the land used was cultivation that once produced food.
That’s not the case with palm oil, most of which is grown on land that was previously tropical forest. The cutting down of that forest, 40% of all remaining forest in SE Asia, is IMO the worst ecological disaster of my lifetime.

Ed Fix

Joe Guerk says:
July 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm
“The post sounds like a gross exaggeration: The US has food coming out of its ears; it can afford to set aside a percentage of the farmland for ethanol.”
Yes, we (US) have corn coming out our ears. Which we used to sell in poor regions of the earth at bargain prices. Now we burn it, and they pay higher prices or starve.
” No, I don’t care about starving Biafrans or whatever…”
Exactly the point. Thank you.

Government Energy Warning: May contain traces of energy.
The WWF supports bio-ethanol production, and says it’s “safe for vehicles” – they would know, wouldn’t they? I suggest they be renamed WWWF – World-Wide Waste of Food.

rgbatduke

I have to say that I think this is a bit excessive. Lots of states in the United States (at least) do not have an enormous amount of cropland growing food. In fact, in North Carolina we have rather a lot of cropland growing tobacco, that is to say, growing something even more useless and bad for mankind than biodiesel crops or corn from which ethanol can be made. There’s little profit in people trying to grow food on the land — first of all, the US has an enormous surplus of food grown on the farm and has for years to the extent that it has been subsidizing farmers for many decades not to grow food; second some of the land is too dry, too depleted by a couple of centuries of growing tobacco, too acid, to support growing more food that merely drops the price of food to where the farmer can’t make a living at it any more. In NC a lot of farmers grow tobacco because it is a high return crop. Corn isn’t.
Maybe pot would be, but of course hemp has a huge number of uses (not just smokability) — it can be made into paper, clothing, rope, and yes, alcohol or biodiesel. It grows fast and could easily be a major cash crop to replace tobacco on all accounts. Too bad it is restricted at best, illegal at worst, to grow.
People grow all sorts of things besides food. They grow trees to make into furniture or paper or houses. They grow grains like barley for the sole purpose of making them (at a ruinous loss relative to their food value) into beer, which is hardly a necessary nutrient. Well, maybe it is, but not as far as nutritionists are concerned. They grow hops just to put into the barley-wasting beer.
Asserting that there are people starving now because there are other people growing corn not to feed hogs but to turn into ethanol is an egregious claim, at least in the US. First of all, there are hardly any people in the US that are starving. Second, you’d have to show that somebody would farm food on the land being used to grow ethanol precursors, that the food thus grown wouldn’t cause farmers to go out of business by dropping food prices to where the market corrected itself right back to the current level of competitiveness. Third, you’d have to show that the food thus grown, openly sold on the free market, would prevent somebody else from starving because see first, hardly anybody in the US is starving and there are already programs galore that would feed them from our incredible surplus of food as it is.
Anything but free market prevention of starvation puts you right back into the government intervention seat. Should the government subsidize farmers not to grow anything to keep small farmers in business at a reasonable profit? Should they subsidize them to grow a big surplus so that the surplus doesn’t drive prices down to where they go out of business, or rather, so that they don’t go out of business as the price inevitably goes down? Should they subsidize some other crop that at least makes the farmer earn a living while keeping too many of them from growing food in a country where efficient farming means that one has to grow a huge, corporate amount of food to be profitable (on a good year)? Should they subsidize nothing, in which case it is very unlikely that one single person will be saved from starvation (or vice versa) in the free market, where if anything the free market is likely to drive people out of farming altogether and then drive prices up with even less food being grown?
The point is that markets are complex. Government policy and intervention have been involved in the manipulation of markets to accomplish goals held to be in the public interest from the very beginning of this country, with the very first tariffs and protections, with the very first taxes. You are perfectly within your rights to argue for or against the public policy decision that encourages farmers to grow crops that can be turned into fuel, but if you are going to claim that people are starving because of it, you’ll have to show me the people, and if you claim that world food prices are increasing, you’ll also have to show that the would be being propped up at this “increased” level without the benefit of fuel production otherwise.
Personally, I might even agree that mandated ethanol in gasoline is a questionable practice, and yes, it is bad to run in my boat even with enzymatic protections (although that is largely due to the way the motor is designed and built, not anything intrinsic or unfixable). I have moderate doubts that with current crop hybrids one can ever — or at least easily — establish a steady state biofuel basis for even the 1/3 or so of energy consumption that runs cars.
However, that’s now, this year. Next year somebody may genetically engineer a seed crop with 3x the oil production and the resulting biodiesel may be cheaper than the regular kind without subsidy. Or Iran could succeed in building a nuclear device, use it on Israel, which retaliates by nuking the entire middle east into a radioactive wasteland for the next 100 years, and the resulting rise in prices might make biodiesel and ethanol and gasoline made from coal enormously profitable, whereupon our existing limited capacity to keep things going with it might be all that saves civilization while it adjusts. And finally, while I know it is never welcome on this of all sites, it is the simple truth that the warmists could be right and evidence finally accumulates that convinces even me, even you, even Anthony. Honesty requires acknowledging at least the possibility, even if you think it unlikely.
Then the question is one of hedging one’s bets. By maintaining a moderately profitable biofuel industry, the government paves the way for scaling things up or down as future evidence dictates. If temperatures start dropping radically with no change in aerosols, perhaps because of the solar minimum, perhaps because of nonlinear negative feedbacks kicking in we know not of, a lot of supporters of the CAGW hypothesis will change their minds, including many climate scientists. Scaling down is easy. If temperatures start going up radically over the next decade, with over a 0.2 C bump consistent with the supposed 2.8 C climate sensitivity on doubling CO_2 to 600, scaling up is easy too. The current level of production is arguable, but as a hedged bet it isn’t insane.
Now if they’d just legalize hemp and openly encourage its investigation as a possible biofuel source, no matter how it turns out it wouldn’t be a total loss…;-)
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pat

Sugar cane ethanol biofuel produces 10 times the pollution of gasoline and diesel
http://joannenova.com.au/2012/07/sugar-cane-ethanol-biofuel-produces-10-times-the-pollution-of-gasoline-and-diesel/
Abstract of Tsao et al 2012:
“Accelerating biofuel production has been promoted as an opportunity to enhance energy security, offset greenhouse gas
emissions and support rural economies. However, large uncertainties remain in the impacts of biofuels on air quality
and climate1,2. Sugar-cane ethanol is one of the most widely used biofuels, and Brazil is its largest producer3. Here we
use a life-cycle approach to produce spatially and temporally explicit estimates of air-pollutant emissions over the whole life
cycle of sugar-cane ethanol in Brazil. We show that even in regions where pre-harvest field burning has been eliminated
on half the croplands, regional emissions of air pollutants continue to increase owing to the expansion of sugar-cane
growing areas, and burning continues to be the dominant life-cycle stage for emissions. Comparison of our estimates of
burning-phase emissions with satellite estimates of burning in São Paulo state suggests that sugar-cane field burning is
not fully accounted for in satellite-based inventories, owing to the small spatial scale of individual fires. Accounting for
this effect leads to revised regional estimates of burned area that are four times greater than some previous estimates. Our revised emissions maps thus suggest that biofuels may have larger impacts on regional climate forcing and human health than previously thought.”

betapug says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

After a protracted email exchange with Shell Canada, they admitted there is no way I can know what exactly I am buying at the pump as the ethanol dilution of gasoline is a federally mandated amount of their total national sales volume.

The problem is that there’s not enough biomass ethanol ethanol to blend. A year or two ago I got all excited because my gas mileage suddenly jumped 5% or so. My guess was that Gulf didn’t have the ethanol to blend, so I was getting good stuff without the bad stuff. The boost lasted quite a while, I still buy Gulf in hopes the good stuff comes back. I wonder if it’s legal for a gas station to advertise their current gas is low ethanol, and boost their price a bit to pay for the federal penalty.
I haven’t checked the web, but there really ought to be some simple ways of checking or removing ethanol. The local outdoor equipment folks would love to have non-ethanol fuel, and if you can get the ethanol pure enough to drink that would open a whole new underground market. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Win-win-lose if you include the Feds.

betapug

Skimming Obama’s recently released US Bioeconomy Blueprint http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2012/04/27/the-us-bioeconomy-blueprint-the-10-minute-guide/ ,
I am impressed by how many sacred Green principles- opposition to Genetic Modification, the Precautionary Principle, more stringent government regulations, curbing of anti-competitive business practices, academic independence, etc.-are thrown under the (presumeably biofuel powered) bus.

Ian W

Joe Guerk says:
July 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm
The post sounds like a gross exaggeration: The US has food coming out of its ears; it can afford to set aside a percentage of the farmland for ethanol.
No, I don’t care about starving Biafrans or whatever the latest tear-jerking famine story is.

We have had this discussion on a previous thread.
There is every chance that next year the US will be importing wheat from South America as long as their harvests don’t fail. It is already importing corn.
“Grain prices set records as U.S. drought, food worries spread
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Grain prices pushed to record highs on Thursday as scattered rains in U.S. Midwest did little to douse fears that the worst drought in half a century will not end soon or relieve worries around the world about higher food prices.
Government forecasters did not rule out that the drought in the U.S. heartland could last past October, continuing what has been the hottest half-year on record.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-20/news/sns-rt-us-usa-droughtbre86f1d4-20120716_1_grain-prices-moderate-drought-national-drought-mitigation-center
and
Soybean prices set an all-time high; wheat, corn rise as crops crumple in blistering heat wave
The price of soybeans hit an all-time high Wednesday as a devastating heat wave continued to pound crops in fields.
Soybeans for August delivery rose 44.5 cents, or 2.7 percent, to finish at $16.835 per bushel. Wheat prices ended at the highest level since the spring of 2008 and corn prices are pushing toward their all-time high set in June 2011.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/markets/soybean-prices-set-an-all-time-high-wheat-corn-rise-as-crops-crumple-in-blistering-heat-wave/2012/07/18/gJQAvqtDuW_story.html
and
World grain price surge triggering defaults
(Reuters) – Grains suppliers are starting to default on previously agreed sales to major importers, including top wheat buyer Egypt, rather than deliver on contracts that are now losing money because of the huge rally in prices sparked by the U.S. drought.
The worst drought in more than 50 years is wilting crops in the U.S. Midwest and sending prices into overdrive, with corn alone surging by around 50 percent in the last month. Soybeans have also hit record highs, with wheat not far behind.
Crop downgrades in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan as drought followed a bitterly cold winter have added to global price rises, stoking fears of unrest especially in Middle Eastern countries, where high food prices can trigger political protest.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/19/us-grain-market-defaults-idUSBRE86I0EZ20120719
Its rapidly becoming not Biafra you need worry about but the USA. Supermarkets only hold 3 days of food the reserves ‘grain mountain’ has largely gone. see:
Spotlight G-20: Grain Reserves and the Food Price Crisis
With the U.S. government announcement last week that this year’s corn crop is expected to be much smaller due to an extended drought, agricultural commodity markets are yet again headed for high and unstable prices this summer. Is the world better prepared for the shortfall then it was in 2007? Certainly, the United States is not. To cite agricultural journalist Alan Guebert:
Indeed, according to CCC (Commodity Credit Corporation), there is not one teaspoon of sugar, one pound of peanuts, one slice of butter, one wheel of cheese, one bushel of wheat or even one chickpea in USDA’s pantry. CCC has nothing—nada, zip, goose egg—to release into the marketplace to slow or moderate what’s certain to be fast-climbing food prices in the coming months.

Other headlines
Russia grain harvest downgraded due to Black Sea weather – Reuters
Drought to cut Serbia grain harvest, drive up prices
Brazil ships corn to drought-stricken US
Argentina sees grains windfall from US drought

and on and on…..
And people pump grain based ethanol into their vehicles to run less efficiently.
I know _you_ don’t care but in the time you took to read this about a dozen children died of hunger.

I don’t care who makes ethanol from what, as long as it does not rely on legislated markets, subsidies, price controls, tax breaks or deceptive or coercive marketing. Get government out of the equation and then we will see what works.
Viv Forbes

Sam

People complain about how the process for making biofuels is inefficient, but trust me- you don’t want to see an effecient version. If that happens you could get the price of fuel and food to equalize (with the gap equal to the cost of the refining process. That would be bad. The only version of biofuels that is intelligent is one that converts residual plant waste. Even converting non-food crops is bad because you are increasing the demand for land to grow crops.
Joe Geurk
“The post sounds like a gross exaggeration: The US has food coming out of its ears; it can afford to set aside a percentage of the farmland for ethanol.”
The problem is that for the last 70 years the US government has subsidized agriculture to the point that we now determine world food prices. Demand is increasing (from population growth) and the US is reducing supply. The result is a price shock even though the drop in quantity is small, because demand for food is highly inelastic.
Now, in a market economy with a baseline set up this would automatically correct itself, but we don’t have that. Poor countries have diminished capacity to ramp up food production, poor people don’t have enough buying power to change food habits (if food becomes more expensive for first worlds we can simply eat less meat) and they have become dependent on US food because are subsidies allow us to dump agricultural products.
Essentially this is a food version of the 2001 California energy crisis, where shutting down a few plants caused electricity prices to spike and capped prices for the plant owners keep them from expanding.
I think the larger green organizations have come around and realize this is a bad idea, but it is unlikely to be fixed anytime soon. It is sort of funny- unlike almost all other political controversies in the US, this has an obvious answer… but one that won’t be embraced because a small group massively benefits (American farmers) and the rest of the population (despite statements of spreading democracy, the faith, complaints about collateral damage or anything else) doesn’t seem to care about foreigners. It isn’t an American problem- agricultural subsidies exist in the Eurozone and Japan. I’m not sure if they also embrace this specific stupidity, but if they don’t it is probably due to a lack of convertable crops.

Gail Combs

Ian H says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm
The US farmer lobby paid for this legislation to go through and it wants its money’s worth…..
_______________________________________
WRONG! That is typical propaganda spin pointing fingers at the innocent.

62 percent of farms in United States did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA.
Ten percent collected 75 percent of all subsidies.
Amounting to $172.2 billion over 17 years.
Top 10%: $31,400 average per year between 1995 and 2011.
Bottom 80%: $594 average per year between 1995 and 2011.
http://farm.ewg.org/region.php

In general US farmers LOSE $15,000 a year putting food in your mouth. (USDA Census) Another link shows 84% of all U.S. farms generated gross sales of less than $100,000 per year with net incomes generally run about 15% to 20% of gross sales. Over 65% of these farms show no profit at all.
If you bothered to research the topic you find who the real winners are.
1. Perhaps America’s champion all-time campaign contributor is Dwayne Orville Andreas. Although virtually unknown to most Americans, since the 1970s, leading politicians of both parties have been well acquainted with Andreas, his company, and his money…
2. Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), the single largest beneficiary of a controversial federal ethanol tax subsidy, contributed more than $3 million in unregulated “soft money” to Republican and Democratic national party committees during the past 10 years
3. ADM have the power to make your life more expensive – much more expensive. And they have been aggressively exercising that power for over 30 years.
4. ADM is the largest primary food processor in the country – it turns corn and soybeans (among other products) into a host of consumer products: corn flakes, cornstarch, corn syrup, corn meal, popcorn, and hundreds of other items. One of those other items is ethanol…. More accurately, though, ethanol is the latest incarnation of snake oil.
5. ADM profits soar 550 percent as ethanol margins improve
That was just ADM
April 2009 – Corporations are still making a killing from hunger: For grain traders like Cargill and ADM, seed and pesticide companies like Syngenta and Monsanto and fertiliser companies like Potash Corp and Yara, there was never a better time for their bottom lines….
Cargill VP, Dan Amstuz, wrote the World Trade Agreement on Agriculture (1995) and the farm bill (1996) later called “Freedom to Fail” that bankrupted US farmers and wiped out the US grain reserves by 2008. Amstutz established Cargill Investor Services and then went on to work for Goldman Sachs. If we continue to follow the money trail we find How Goldman Sachs Created the [2008] Food Crisis.
More on the politics
Also read this three part series:
http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/11853
http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/11878
http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/11910
Update: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/21703

James

Studied this at horticultural college. The fossil fuels required to plant, maintain and harvest the biofuel crop used much the same energy that the crop produced. Good earner though when the subsidies are taken into account.
Next thing will be to subsidise Photovoltaic panel schemes on productive farmland as photoynthesis is considered bad for the planet.

u.k.(us)

Innovation is stifled when government policy gaurantees a profit.
Look no further than the gamblers that made the mistake of betting on Facebook’s stock, and now want their money back.
Risk tends to focus/ hone the mind, a government gaurantee does the opposite.
But, this has all been thrashed out by historians, so I’ll stop.

A. Scott

http://archvillain.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/not-this-again.jpg
The U.S. meets ALL domestic needs plus fulfilled ALL corn export demand and still adds to the surplus.
Almost every claim in the orig post is either wildly inaccurate or an outright lie. This is nothing more than a completely unsubstantiated and undocumented “drive by”
IMO this type simplistic activist comment simply does not deserve a response here. Little more than an advocacy “commercial” with no exhibited desire for discussion.

Robert of Ottawa

The so-called “Arab Spring”, which is letting the Muslim Brotherhood into governments, was precipitated by rising food prices.

cui bono
CodeTech

I kinda miss my old car… I had it tuned perfectly for Mohawk 94 octane ethanol blend, and it ran 12 seconds. Not bad for a 1987 street car at 3500 feet. In fact, my new car, a 2008 SRT4, is also happiest with lots of ethanol and higher octane, but that’s because it’s a turbo and can efficiently use that kind of fuel. I don’t notice much variation in mileage at all from fuel, but that’s mostly because this little pig of a car is about as aerodynamic as a brick with spoilers.
On the subject of rants, my 1987 Daytona Shelby Z was a piece of cake to modify. I completely rewrote the engine controller with more accurate fuel calculations than the factory was able to do, and had it to the point where highway mileage was in the 40-45 MPG range. The 2008 computer is security locked thanks to the EPA and it’s virtually impossible for me to increase its efficiency, thus reducing emissions. Thanks, EPA. I despise your draconian meddling with my car. I have never once achieved 30MPG on this car, and usually even highway is in the 25MPG range.
21 years of Progress, as defined by the EPA, is using almost twice the fuel with the associated emissions increases for a similar weight and performance car.

LOL in Oregon

Hey,
how else can they reduce the surplus population?
I propose that anyone who supports burning food for transportation be required to use the food they would have consumed, you know:
    they walk their talk!
(and this should especially apply to anyone who mandates it!)
Naaah, can’t have that, after all, they know what is good for you and
they’ll work real hard to make sure you toe the line for their religion!
LOL in Oregon

Gail Combs

rgbatduke says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm
I have to say that I think this is a bit excessive. Lots of states in the United States (at least) do not have an enormous amount of cropland growing food. In fact, in North Carolina we have rather a lot of cropland growing tobacco, that is to say, growing something even more useless…
_________________________________
I am afraid you are a bit behind the times by a few years. The USDA/FDA put in new regulations on curing of tobacco and most of the farmers I know got out of tobacco.

Jul. 16, 2009
Congress made history with a vote on tobacco in June. But it wasn’t the kind of history that growers wanted to be part of. By big margins, both the House and the Senate voted to give the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over the tobacco industry, a power no federal agency had ever had…. “Growers expect a continuing escalation of add-on regulations from FDA, especially since the FDA will be funded by the user fee,” Bunn says. “Since current FDA programs are under-funded, the tobacco user fee will provide a windfall of resources to expand the bureaucracy of FDA.”
http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/tobacco-growers-wary-fda-ruling

The guy across the street had just put in new (federally mandated) curing barns only to find out a few years later they were now obsolete and he had to invest in entirely new buildings. He gave up and now grows corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat. Tobbaco is just not worth it.

… says Blake Brown, North Carolina Extension agricultural economist.
There are three reasons:
• Increased regulation, and increased cigarette prices caused by that regulation, will lead to lower U.S. cigarette consumption.
• Harm reduction technologies will likely reduce the amount of tobacco in each cigarette.
• The emphasis on harm reduction typically shifts demand toward smokeless tobacco products, and they historically have used little burley or flue-cured tobacco.
But all this is very difficult to express in reliable numbers. “We don’t know how to quantify the effects of regulation,” says Brown. “Much depends on how stringent the regulations are written and how quickly they are put into force.”

The US has food coming out of its ears
No, we do not. If you check the USDA data, the US used to carry approx a 9 month supply of cereal grains in inventory. Now we carry less than 3 months, and in the winter our stocks drop to mere weeks.
With corn crops failing due to drought, it remains to be seen where we will be come March 2013.

A. Scott

Gail … I absolutely agree that small farmers get the shaft. The middleman and manufacturers make majority of profit with a fraction of the risks. The consumer however does not want to pay for farmers to make a decent year to year living.
In the end though the big companies like ADM can overall help all farmers. Their goal is to receive maximum price at minimum costs. Every farmer benefits from better prices. Every farmer benefits from improved crop yields, better seed, better farming methods and the like. And they are extremely efficient at farming – which does offset to some extent their incessant drive for higher prices.
Were I a smaller farmer I would be a proponent of the ADM’s – a rising tide raises all ships. They certainly have many negatives but at end of the day higher prices and improved yields and efficiency are good for the farmers aren’t they?

Another massive “feel good” screwup, that is considered to being that bad that even Al Gore actually developed a late conscience about it and admitted it to being just that case, a major cockup. It’s killing people, it’s causing starvation and it makes the “Greens” look like they are in the ‘Ethnic Cleansing” business. Only this time it’s killing thousands every week including entire families and they claim to having a care. They lie, the proof is right there and they basically do not give a damn about human life as they have already already demonstrated when banning DDT, that action alone is killing millions every year as well. Not one single regret from any of them.

JustSaying

Second, you’d have to show that somebody would farm food on the land being used to grow ethanol precursors, that the food thus grown wouldn’t cause farmers to go out of business by dropping food prices to where the market corrected itself right back to the current level of competitiveness.
As you say, markets are complex, and in the long term anything can happen, but the argument is that at least in the short term, supply curves are upward-sloping. An increase in price is needed to expand production of a given crop, because more marginal land needs to be brought under cultivation and there needs to be a price incentive to switch from other uses. A corollary of that is that a reduction in production of a given crop (for example due to the abolition of a biofuel mandate) will generally produce a fall in price, because only the most fertile land stays under cultivation.
Third, you’d have to show that the food thus grown, openly sold on the free market, would prevent somebody else from starving.
The mechanism for that, given that grains are internationally traded, is that the fall in price described above would allow people on very low incomes to buy more food at market prices; it would also allow relief agencies’ food budgets to go further.

Gail Combs

rgbatduke says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm
….Maybe pot would be, but of course hemp has a huge number of uses (not just smokability) — it can be made into paper, clothing, rope, and yes, alcohol or biodiesel. It grows fast and could easily be a major cash crop to replace tobacco on all accounts. Too bad it is restricted at best, illegal at worst, to grow….
_________________________
Again I am afraid you are incorrect. Pot is not hemp. They are two different plants. You are correct about hemp being a VERY useful plant that should be legalized.

Hemp Is Not Pot:
….With 25,000 known applications from paper, clothing and food products — which, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal this January, is the fastest growing new food category in North America — to construction and automotive materials, hemp could be just the crop to jump-start America’s green economy.
But growing hemp remains illegal in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Administration has lumped the low-THC plant together with its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, making America the planet’s only industrialized nation to ban hemp production. We can import it from Canada, which legalized it in 1997. But we can’t grow it….

The Wall Street Gerbil has this to say

…..In the U.S., hemp is often associated with marijuana or rope. The plant’s distant relation to Cannabis has raised concerns over its THC levels, the psychoactive substance found in the illegal drug.
But findings published in the July/August 2008 Journal of Analytical Toxicology indicate that hemp foods in the marketplace do not contain detectable levels of THC.
Now, food companies are trying to overcome the challenges of shedding the mysteries of hemp by introducing it as milk, protein powder and nuts (shelled hemp seeds) with some success.
According to a study by natural products market research firm SPINS, these are the top three growth-driving categories for the industry. The report found that from 2007 to 2008, sales of hemp milk grew about 162%, protein powder increased 21% and nuts rose 44%.
Living Harvest, the first company to commercially produce hemp milk in the U.S., hopes to cash in on that growth in April, when their hemp milk ice creams debut. The company will offer vanilla bean, chocolate fudge, toasted coconut and lime, coffee biscotti and mint chip. It will also introduce a cooking oil the same month.
Hemp milk benefits: Hemp milk contains no common allergens and is easily digestible….
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123069062782044697.html

Carl Brannen

(1) If all subsidies for ethanol and gasoline went away farmers would still sell corn to distillers because turning corn into ethanol is profitable under current corn and ethanol prices (and has been for many years). If we made it illegal to do this in the US, either the price of corn would drop and our farmers would quit making it, or our corn would be exported to other countries that would then convert it into ethanol which they would then use to replace gasoline or possibly sell back to us.
(2) The reason for starvation is that people cannot afford to pay farmers for food. The fact that 1/3 or 1/4 (or whatever) of our corn is now being turned into fuel is a good thing. This means we produce that much more corn than we need to eat. So if we have a year where crops fail, the corn that we would normally turn into ethanol will be instead eaten as food. This could save millions of lives. If we outlawed the burning of food in vehicles this safety margin would disappear.
(3) The production of ethanol produces distiller’s grains as a byproduct. This byproduct is a food and (like the field corn used in ethanol) is almost entirely fed to animals but can be consumed by humans. People who make calculations showing that making ethanol uses more gasoline than ethanol produced fail to take into account this sort of thing.
(4) In general, what farmers and distillers do with their time is not the business of the US government or the people reading this thread. This is a free country and we are, individually, free to pursue our own goals. The expectation is that the free enterprise system will intelligently distribute efforts in such a way as to satisfy the needs of individuals. This is what is happening, leave it alone it will do fine without your ignorant “help”. This is not a Communist country where the government decides how many light bulbs and what wattages are to be produced. Production depends on prices and the price of ethanol is high enough that swapping corn for ethanol plus distillers grains is a attractive.
(5) If we suddenly stopped making ethanol the fuel companies would have to import it from overseas. That’s right. If ethanol were not present in your modern gasoline your modern gasoline would not work in your modern car. Your engine would knock to pieces because the reason modern gasoline mixtures have octane levels that are high enough to burn in your modern car is because of the ethanol.
(6) If the refiners adapted to the absence of ethanol by tuning their blends for higher octane fuels you would see the price of fuel zoom. Fuel that could not be burned in the 1990s is now burned by adding ethanol to it. This is in addition to the price rise you would get when the absence of ethanol suddenly meant that your car ran out of fuel. They have to get it somewhere and the more you want the higher the price goes up.

Gunga Din

Joe Guerk says:
July 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm
The post sounds like a gross exaggeration: The US has food coming out of its ears; it can afford to set aside a percentage of the farmland for ethanol.
No, I don’t care about starving Biafrans or whatever the latest tear-jerking famine story is.
======================================================================
But………..but………..I thought this Man-Made (fill in the blank) was causing an extreme drought. So whatever farmland is set aside for ethonol will be less farmland for food and therefore increase the price of food and therefore put more of a strain on the pocket books of the poor in this country. Whatever ears you’re talking about, it isn’t corn.

R. Shearer

The problem of starvation is not because of lack of food (at least at the moment globally) but one rather of wealth and distribution. So, it doesn’t matter much that we are burning food for fuel from that aspect. The real problem is that the economics, or alternatively, the net return of energy on energy invested for corn to ethanol is marginal. Clear cutting tropical forrests to plant palm for biodiesel is much more repugnant.
If we are going to continue this practice, however, I would rather see us build a store of 3 years or more of corn and use that store to make fuel and also to augment world food supply, as a sort of strategic corn reserve. If there is another La Nina year and this drought persists another year or two, gasohol production will decline.

Gail Combs

Ric Werme says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm
……I wonder if it’s legal for a gas station to advertise their current gas is low ethanol, and boost their price a bit to pay for the federal penalty.
I haven’t checked the web, but there really ought to be some simple ways of checking or removing ethanol. The local outdoor equipment folks would love to have non-ethanol fuel….
______________________________
I live near a boating area and we have two gas stations in the county that sell regular non-biofuel gas. (premium) at an increased cost. I use it on all my gas powered equipment.

eyesonu

betapug says:
July 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm
Skimming Obama’s recently released US Bioeconomy Blueprint http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2012/04/27/the-us-bioeconomy-blueprint-the-10-minute-guide/ ,
I am impressed by how many sacred Green principles- opposition to Genetic Modification, the Precautionary Principle, more stringent government regulations, curbing of anti-competitive business practices, academic independence, etc.-are thrown under the (presumeably biofuel powered) bus.
==================
You left out a few:
No objection to building lots of new powerlines, massive tower structures (wind farms) blotting the landscape and associated noise pollution, selective suspension of regulations protecting endangered species such as eagles and bats, increased CO2 levels associated with the production of ethanol and its use, higher food prices, higher transportation costs, higher electricity costs maybe leading to higher pot costs, new road construction to access and service wind farms, acceptance of big green corporate entities, frequent air travel for big green conferences, etc.
Time to play the nuclear card now. It’s the only thing that can save us from ourselves. It’s truly the only green option left. It will create jobs, reduce CO2, reduce coal consumption, reduce mercury, reduce coal ash, reduce reliance on overseas oil, lessen need for big military and save lives, reduce increase in wind farm blotted landscape, save the condors, eagles, bats, and the polar bears by proxy, etc.
Just paint it green and it’s OK.

Gary Pearse

rgbatduke says:
July 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm
“And finally, while I know it is never welcome on this of all sites, it is the simple truth that the warmists could be right and evidence finally accumulates that convinces even me, even you, even Anthony. Honesty requires acknowledging at least the possibility, even if you think it unlikely.”
rg, this is the only thing I found in your excellent long comment I take issue with and it is a matter of nuance. All sensible, thinking sceptics agree that the temperature has risen, probably over the past couple of hundred years by a degree C or so. The main issue scientifically literate sceptics have isn’t with the “could be”. It is with what is really causing this, so far, unalarming warming that remains within natural variability. Sure it “could be”, but until we do know, we certainly won’t accept disengenuous, activist-ideologue scientist’s findings and their prescriptions for solving a problem that hasn’t manifested itself. Despite the lengths that the CAGW proponents have gone to to manipulate the data and commandeer the media and flood the once scientific journals with cooked studies, it hasn’t been possible to get rid of the warmer 1930s, the MWP (Viking farmsteads are emerging from under the ice of Greenland).. With the problem not yet demonstrated, we have already spent, or will have spent trillions in the coming decades on crazy energy schemes, billions on dishonest scientific studies and a plan to recreate the Dark Ages. We could feed a lot of people, or they could feed themselves on this kind of bread.
Listen rg, I think you got the rest of this right on, I’m a sceptic who came to know that it had warmed in the past century+ through reading here at WUWT. I couldn’t trust the consensus sites for information because they blocked reasoned dissent. I’m a geologist who learned a long time ago that the globe had varied a lot in its temp ranges from ice ages to a lot warmer than it is today. I learned a long time ago that deltas and coral islands rise with sea level rise and have commented on these themes frequently. Until today, I was dead against using corn for fuel but I accept your excellent argument (although I have the reservations about it that you do – it is not a carbon neutral fuel by any stretch- I think the CAGW folks are the ones that should be against this). I’m sure you subscribe to the idea that yields have grown with the CO2 rise and maybe castor beans or something like them would be a great way to recycle CO2 back into fuel. .

Ian H says July 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm
The US farmer lobby paid for this legislation to go through and it wants its money’s worth…..
_______________________________________
Gail Combs says July 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm
WRONG! That is typical propaganda spin pointing fingers at the innocent.
62 percent of farms in United States did not collect subsidy payments – according to USDA. …

The Corn Ethanol Juggernaut

The corn sector has long enjoyed staunch backing from Congress. According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, between 1995 and 2006, federal corn subsidies, which are provided through a myriad of programs, totaled $56.1 billion.

Farm Lobby Beats Back Assault On Subsidies

[The Farm Bill] It has since evolved into a thicket of hard-to-cut programs, providing payments and special loans to farmers to counteract swings in commodity prices and ensure market stability, as well as income. Subsidies flow to growers of corn, wheat and cotton, among other commodities. The legislation has also become a vehicle for funding food stamps, land conservation and school lunches, to name a few things, attracting supporters whose constituents have little or nothing to do with farms.

Biofuels Boost World Food Prices

Although U.S. and European Union (EU) farm subsidies have long been criticized for their effect on global farm prices, many analysts say the biggest culprits today are the biofuel policies of the two economic powers. Laws that require a certain percentage of transportation fuel to be biofuel — made from corn, sugarcane or other plants — are having perhaps a greater impact on world crop prices than other types of subsidies.
Corn-based ethanol, the main biofuel used in the United States, will consume 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year [2011], up from 6 percent in 2001. “The markets are considerably distorted by U.S. biofuels policy”

.

Gary Hladik

Joe Guerk says (July 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm): “No, I don’t care about starving Biafrans or whatever the latest tear-jerking famine story is.”
Fair enough. Do you care about your wallet?

Jay Davis

Another reason I say the CAGW hoaxsters are committing crimes against humanity. Al Gore, M. Mann and all the others have a lot to answer for.

Carl Brannen,
Your arguments seem dubious to me. They excuse rent-seeking behavior and government intervention in the markets. Do you have some sort of vested interest in ethanol?

Ray

Viv Forbes says:
July 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm
I don’t care who makes ethanol from what, as long as it does not rely on legislated markets, subsidies, price controls, tax breaks or deceptive or coercive marketing. Get government out of the equation and then we will see what works.
Viv Forbes
—————————–
This is exactly what they also do for the petroleum industry. If they also did what you wish for around the petroleum market you would see the prices at pumps sky-rocket.
I see lots of people here that don’t quite understand the whole industry and even less on what is going on biofuel R&D… there is more than ethanol. Some of us don’t even need subsidies to make profitable biofuel.

CodeTech says July 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm

On the subject of rants, my 1987 Daytona Shelby Z was a piece of cake to modify. I completely rewrote the engine controller with more accurate fuel calculations than the factory was able to do, and had it to the point where highway mileage was in the 40-45 MPG range.

Simple ‘mileage’ is not the only goal of the engine controller (and let’s not forget the catalytic converter if so factory-equipped), but rather the goal is to meet the requirements of reducing emissions across the board including (but not limited to) CO, NOx etc … reducing one component may result in an increase in another (such as peak combustion temperatures contribute to NOx emissions but result in better incremental mileage performance).
Unless you observed tailpipe emissions for ALL products, you could have been doing more harm than good overall taking into consideration tailpipe emissions …
.

TomH

Carl says:
“If ethanol were not present in your modern gasoline your modern gasoline would not work in your modern car.”
Sorry….that’s as wrong as you can possibly be.

PaulH

Ethanol = “Food for clunkers”

A. Scott

I would also add to the above – the US Corn crop fulfilled ALL U.S. animal feed demand as well. Including providing Distillers Dried Grain Solids which replace more than 1/3 of the corn used for ethanol with a higher quality animal feed.
The corn used for ethanol is generally not corn used for food but rather corn used for feed – a good share as noted above which is returned as high quality DDGS animal feed. Regardless, increases in the cost of corn have a nominal effect of prices of food – a few cents on a box of Corn Flakes for example.
Corn used for ethanol has a net positive energy balance – returning, at the low end, appx 1.6 units of energy for every 1 unit expended to produce.
Ethanol currently replaces appx 10% of the US domestic fuel needs – extending the supply of fossil fuels and reducing import demands.
The ethanol subsidy was ended now some time ago.
The “growers” subsidies, to the extent they even still exist, are paid to grow CORN – regardless of its use. These subsidies would be the same if the corn was being used for food.
Ethanol has clearly been proven overall to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases,
Corn used for ethanol does not require any more land, fuel, water, fertilizers etc than corn grown for food or feed.
If there was a demand for more corn, more corn would be planted. And if there was a true worldwide food shortage then certainly, to the extent it would provide any benefit, corn would be diverted from ethanol production.
The original poster is simply and completely clueless about the real facts regarding ethanol. The “Letter to the Editor” was nothing more than a thinly veiled activist attack based on a clear lack of knowledge on the subject. It was no better than the global warming proponents similarly ill informed and inaccurate screeds.

eyesonu

Carl Brannen says:
July 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm
(4) In general, what farmers and distillers do with their time is not the business of the US government or the people reading this thread. This is a free country and we are, individually, free to pursue our own goals. The expectation is that the free enterprise system will intelligently distribute efforts in such a way as to satisfy the needs of individuals. This is what is happening, leave it alone it will do fine without your ignorant “help”. This is not a Communist country where the government decides how many light bulbs and what wattages are to be produced. Production depends on prices and the price of ethanol is high enough that swapping corn for ethanol plus distillers grains is a attractive.
====================
Then being a supporter of a “free country” you would certainly support the elimination of the ethanol mandate, yes? The government does tell us what kind of light bulbs to and wattage to use as well as mandate for ethanol in gas. Communist?
Reading your post/comment again I have to ask, Did you forget “sarc” at the end?